A whirlwind weekend of CBD products, science & people
This past weekend I headed to the Orlando Hilton for the CBD Expo East tradeshow. For two days, the main hall was buzzing with energy and excitement. There were several dozen exhibitors and hundreds of CBD entrepreneurs, doctors, pharmacists, extraction chemists, healers & enthusiasts milling around the exhibit hall and lecture rooms.
Here are some trends I observed…
CBD-a & CBG are hot
A preference for adding some CBD-a, the unheated CBD which is found in the raw plant material, to formulas came up in conversations I had with experts. Cannabigerol (CBG) was mentioned in some presentations as a promising therapeutic cannabinoid. Some people said it increases energy.
New products need to target a niche
The market is getting crowded and consumers are becoming familiar with CBD. To stand out, it’s important to focus on a specific niche. The “Barista Blend” by Uncanny Wellness in Boulder is laser-targeted to coffee shops and hot beverage consumers. It fortifies any hot beverage with 10mg of microemulsified CBD in water-soluble powder that is easily measured by a scoop.
There are many dubious products
You can still find a lot of products where it is not clear what they contain or where they are made. Those companies who go the extra mile to disclose the exact ingredients, sources, details of the manufacturing process, batch-test their products and provide a certificate of analysis (CoA) will appear high quality & gain consumers’ trust. This will become more and more important as times goes on.
There is a lot of money to be made
I met a number of normal but hardworking people who have managed to launch a successful CBD retail store or product line. A lot of the veteran entrepreneurs said that consumer awareness & interest in CBD is “exploding”
Full Spectrum vs. THC-free Products
This is one big difference between products that otherwise look similar. CBD isolate-based or “broad-spectrum” products provide peace of mind to cannabis-shy consumers and people subject to drug testing — but they don’t pack the same punch. Full Spectrum products are more potent due to small but significant levels of THC and minor cannabinoids. Lazarus Naturals was handing out sample bottles of their high potency full spectrum oil (~56mg CBD and 2.2mg THC per mL) and you could smell the terpenes wafting from their booth. Even through the sealed glass bottles, it smelled like an herb farm. I sampled the oil and I was very impressed. It has just enough THC to fully activate the effects and bring about a noticeable feeling of wellness — but not so much you’d get high or fuzzy-headed. The oil is emerald green, transparent, fragrant and hemp-y tasting. I now consider Lazarus Naturals to be a reference standard for full-spectrum hemp oil.
“Non-Hemp Derived” CBD from Hops & Orange Peels
This is another trend that has potential to be big. Dr. Bomi Joseph gave a lecture on phyto-medicine and discussed his one-of-a-kind ImmunAg CBD formula that is made from hops (humulus), not cannabis. In the hall after his lecture, he told some fascinating stories about his field expeditions to find medicinal hops specimens in the extremely remote Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh – which is nestled in between Bhutan, Tibet & Myanmar.
Another non-hemp derived product I discovered was a credibly “100% THC-free” oil and Source Pure CBD capsules made by mainstream supplement manufacturer Source Naturals. Brand manager Flavia Miracle said that their product is made with PureForm CBD that is synthesized from orange peels, rather than extracted from hemp. This allows their formula to be used by people who must avoid THC in even the smallest trace amounts.
Bulk Wholesaling CBD is Big Business
I met a lot of companies that do private labeling, white labeling and wholesale of bulk CBD oil to budding entrepreneurs wanting to start their own brands. Most claim to have their “own farm in Colorado” and the strictest quality standards. But it was obvious that some of these wholesalers were re-selling bulk oil they bought from someone else and knew relatively little about. I thought that the Longmont, Colorado-based CFH, Ltd. staffers were professional & made a credible case for their commitment to quality.
CBD Flower & Concentrates Are Popular
Flowers are hot. There was a lot of nice hemp buds that could be seen and smelled around the show. Lifter, Cascade, Suver Haze, Sour Space Candy and other strains sold by Oregon CBD Hemp were around. But I also saw some nice hemp flowers that originated from Ashland’s Secret Nature CBD: the Sweet Cake smelled like dank cannabis & the Papaya Nights was funky. The most impressive was the Cherry Cough – which can have a dense structure and it really does smell like cherries & berries. Richmond CBD Supply Co. in NYC makes nice rosin (solventless extract).
What I liked about CBD Expo East…
Free Samples Galore
Cannabinoid Magazines & Promo Materials
I got to pick up plenty of CBD promotional literature and magazine publications — which is great reference material for my copywriting work.
Florence had some nice looking extracts, lozenges and hemp pastes that contain raw CBD-A as well as CBD based on their “hemp as food” philosophy of supplementation. Little Flower Hemp Company is a family-owned and operated farm in rural Colorado that produces artesian hemp products from “crop to drop” – meaning they do everything themselves. They have beautiful packaging and a number of unique topical products. Glori Blends in Delray Beach, FL was sampling a terpy & delicious tasting “Bliss” CBD oil made with agave.
CBD Lectures & Panels
While the trade show floor was buzzing with people and products, the side halls had constant lectures and demos. Most of the talks I saw had excellent and advanced information, with just a couple of average presentations. I enjoyed the “Science of Phytoceuticals” by Dr. Bomi Joseph, Cannabinoid Research with Dr. Jokubas Ziburkus, and Water-Soluble CBD by Alex Corren.
CBD-Infused “Fun” Foods Everywhere
I got to sample all kinds of CBD-infused foods and beverages: coffee, ice cream, kombucha, taffy, mints, chocolate, sports recovery drinks, gummies, granola, energy bars and hard candies.
I met someone interesting everywhere I walked or sat down. The after party on Friday night was a nice opportunity to dance, eat and chill out after an intense day of learning, sampling & hustling.
I thought the CBD Expo East was well-organized and worth attending. The location at the Orlando Hilton was great – and everything that was advertised before the expo (lectures, company booths, demo events) was delivered on-time and without a hitch. I met lots of high-caliber professionals and entrepreneurs who inspired me. I got to try lots of new products and learn about the industry trends which is crucial to my work as a CBD professional. Best of all… I had a feeling of being together with “my people” – those who were also passionate about CBD. It felt great and I look forward to attending more CBD tradeshows in the future.